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22 Apr, 2010 20:43

Fracking process destroys quality of life

In rural Pennsylvania, a process for extracting gas from shale known as fracking has released dangerous gases into a community's drinking water.

On a quiet street, tucked off the main road in Dimock, Pennsylvania, live people who once dreamed of spending their lives in this close-knit community. Now most residents say they want to move, but have no chance of being able to sell their homes or property.

The people of Dimock live above the Marcellus Shale, an abundant source of natural gas and one of the best energy alternatives to oil in the United States. Most residents in Dimock signed leases with the Cabot Oil and Gas company that allowed the company to drill into their property and set up pads to manufacture gas. In exchange for the rights to invade the earth under the surface, the residents would receive royalties from the sale of the gas.

But something went wrong.

“I’m paying a mortgage on a house that is completely worthless,” said Craig Sautner.

Julie and Craig Sautner planned on retiring here in Dimock. But the swingset in the yard for their grandchildren sits empty and unused. Julie Sautner says her children don’t feel safe bringing their kids to the house since their water supply has become contaminated.

When Cabot Oil started drilling for gas, something got into the Sautner’s well water. And their house has had an extreme makeover. It now sports two pumps, a carbon filter, a second filter, a gas separator, an air pump and a tower to vent methane gas, so it doesn’t collect in the house and explode.

Cabot Oil retrieves gas from the area by a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. In this process, a mixture of water, sand and chemicals are pumped underground at high pressure. It causes fissures in the shale to force the natural gas to the surface.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the Marcellus Shale is 8,000 feet beneath the surface, but Cabot Oil struck gas from a shallower source, called the Devonian Shale.

“As they went down to the Marcellus gas, they failed to isolate the shallower gas deposits and it was those shallower gas deposits that migrated,” explained John Hanger from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

The gas migrated into the water of the local families.

“My kids started getting very sick early on in the drilling process I think. I think they started throwing up and having, it’s sort of like a very bad intestinal bug,” said Pat Farnelli.

Her neighbor’s well blew up from the concentration of gas.

Cabot Oil has refused to comment on the situation, although it does provide drinking water for local families.

Homeland Security officials in the state of Pennsylvania may be spying on those who oppose fracking, including some of those facing issues from the contaminated water.

RT contributor Wayne Madsen said that the government has increasingly begun to place the names of environmental protestors on terrorist and other watch lists as environmental extremists.

It’s even worse. Last week it was reported that the contractor hired by the Department of Homeland Security, Institute of Terrorism Research and Response, an Israeli company, was conducting this spying on not just people opposed to the Marcellus Shale formation fracking, but also people out protesting for gay rights, protesting against the BP oil spill in the Gulf, animal rights people, so forth and so on,” said Madsen.

Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania has apologized, acknowledging he was aware of the matter and said he was appalled. However there has not been a full official investigation launched.